What I Wish I Had Known On Day One
We hear the phrase, "Fed is best." I'm sure you've heard it before. I have too. But do we grasp and understand both its compassionate truth and reality? As a doula, I can't tell you how many parents I have supported along their postpartum feeding journey who struggled with the fact that how we choose or are steered to feed our little one is not only nuanced but, at times complicated, dazzled with a wide range of emotions and expectations. Many of us go into feeding our little ones expecting one thing, only to discover that this #parentlife ain’t no joke, nor is it for punks. It's tough, brutal, and often humbling.
As a mother of three, I've experienced multiple feeding journeys. My first son, Jax, struggled with breastfeeding. Truthfully, I had little to no support. You have to understand that this was way back in the pre-iPhones and Instagram days. We're talking 2006. I was also in my early twenties, the first to give birth of my friends and the first in my family who wanted to breastfeed. Because of a lack of support and know-how, I opted to formula-feed my oldest son.
Fast forward to my second son, and almost nine years later, I had a bit more support. I'd attended prenatal lactation courses. And by the time my little one was here, I was knee-deep in my local mama meetup, chatting about nipples, bottles, and which pump flange was best for what breast pump. I breastfed my middle son for two years, seven months, and four days. Not that I was counting. I was counting.
One would think that by the time I gave birth to my youngest son, I would have this feeding thing in the bag, right? Wrong! Like many babes, my son Jupiter was born with a tongue and lip tie, making breastfeeding difficult. So now here I was doing what sounds like literal hell. It was. I was power feeding. Breastfeeding, then pumping, then bottle feeding, all in the name of not only milk supply but just so my child would gain back his birth weight and thrive. It was literal hell. My life was comprised of pump parts and bottle parts. Freezer bags of milk and bottle warming. (I wish the Ember self-warming baby bottle was around then!) There was no sleep in sight. Sure, we eventually figured it out. We opted for a frenectomy, a procedure used to correct the tongue and lip tie. However, there are just so many things I wish I had known then. Here's what I wish I knew. Feeding Edition.
1. Postpartum and feeding are different every time.
It doesn't matter how many times you give birth. Each feeding experience can differ. Enter with openness. There may be ways and methods that worked before but are demanding now. It's ok.
2. Honor your parenthood AND your needs.
If you, the parent, aren't happy, nobody is happy. Give yourself all the self-compassion needed as you figure out these needs, nourishing yourself and your child.
3. Get ahead of it.
If opting to breastfeed, seek out prenatal lactation support asap! The more prepared you are, the better. Education is everything and can help you manage expectations. Did you know you can expect your baby to receive only half a teaspoon of colostrum each feed within the first 24 hours? If you know this fun fact, the chances of setting unrealistic expectations are less likely—Cue IG freezer stash of frozen milk on Day 2.
4. Bottle feeding is a fantastic way to allow others to feed your baby!
Whether you pump or formula feed, you can catch a much-needed break or nap. Please know that taking a break does not make you a bad parent. It makes you a somewhat rested parent.
Brandi Sellerz-Jackson Birth & Postpartum Doula
Brandi Sellerz-Jackson is a Writer/Author with her first book publishing with Ballantine/ Penguin Random House. She is a Birth and Postpartum Doula, turned Life Doula, and the founder of #NotSoPrivateParts, an online platform centered around removing the shame and stigma surrounding women’s issues.